Opening World Cup weekend. WOOHOO!

I got a chance to see most of the matches on Friday and Saturday, but only pieces of the games on Sunday. Here are my brief thoughts on each of the games so far.

Germany vs Costa Rica – Group A
Some nice goals, very poor display by Costa Rica.

Germany won 4-2, temporarily postponing mass suicides across the country. As I feared, Ballack did not play, although I suspect that if the score had been tied or if they were losing he would have seen some time on the pitch. 2 of the 4 goals by Germany were absolutely amazing long range shots hit right into the upper corner leaving zero chance for the keeper to save them. The other two were just poor marking by Costa Rica who is fighting with Trinidad & Tobago for the title of weakest CONCACAF team. Costa Rica was very poor, with the main reason for their downfall the simple error of holding onto the ball too long. This allowed the Germans to close and surround each Tico and force turnover after turnover. I blame the coaches, and unfortunately for them this is not a habit you can break in a few days before the next game. I’m looking for los Ticos to make a very early exit.

Even though Germany won, they had many holes exposed and I don’t think they will have the time to fix it either. Someone needs to tell the German defenders that in order to play an offsides trap, they ALL need to step forward at the same time. Los Ticos could have burned Germany for several more goals if they would just (see above) play the ball sooner. Poland and Ecuador (who looked very good btw) will absolutely kill them if they don’t fix this. Both Poland and Ecuador also defend much better than Costa Rica, so they won’t drop 4 goals on an opponent again.

Poland vs Ecuador – Group A
An upset, but a tough battle for both.

Poland showed just about what I expected from one of the highest scoring teams during qualifying. They showed a very organized defense, spread the field well, and passed well. The only thing they didn’t do was score. Their probable downfall was that Ecuador scored first. I think if Poland had drawn first, the score would have been mirrored as Ecuador would then have been forced to press the attack.
Ecuador did a great job of clogging up the area right in front of goal, limiting the Poles to crosses from the outside wings. They kept numbers behind the ball defensively and counter-attacked in numbers when they had an advantage. In short they played a very intelligent game.

Both of these teams will give Germany trouble, and in my opinion, will probably come away with victories.

England vs Paraguay – Group B
Very disappointing by both sides

This was the one match I was really looking forward to on opening weekend. What a disappointment. Instead of a blazing fast, end-to-end, physical contest instead we were treated to a display of mediocrity and the reason why so many people in the US dislike soccer and call it boring.

England came out guns blazing, scoring a goal in the first few minutes. I know that it was an own-goal because Gamarra (who incidently talked a LOT of smack before the tourney), but I think it would have gone in anyway… great free-kick by Beckham. But after about 10 more minutes of really good pressure, they just turned it off. They were utterly content to sit back and abosrb (admittedly little) pressure from Paraguay. They have arguably the best starting midfield this World Cup with Beckham, Lampard, Gerrard and Cole but they just refused to use them. Every time England got the ball, they just hoofed it up the field to Peter “stringbean” Crouch and Michael “I’m too short for this” Owen. Absolutely no imagination and creativity, and they just refused to maintain possession. Against a better team, they need to improve this or they will be in trouble.

And the subs? Don’t get me started… Stewart Downing came in for England and promptly committed three unforced turnovers. Who is Stewart Downing, you ask? Exactly my point.

Trinidad & Tobago vs Sweden – Group B
T&T surprised, Sweden disappointed a little

T&T gave a heck of a fight where I expected them to go down quickly. They actually played better when they went down a man as the coach brought in a forward instead of a midfielder or defender. Substitute Cornel Glenn actually hit a shot off the post. I must mention that the moron who got red-carded (the only one so far) is Avery John who plays for the NE Revolution in MLS. I said to myself as the game started “I wonder if that hack is gonna get red-carded”. Sure enough he kept up the same reckless challenges that he is so famous for in MLS.

Sweden is a very solid team. Good defensively, and good offensively. The problem is they don’t really have a “go to” guy, but if they can get out of the group, they will give other teams fits.

Argentina vs Ivory Coast – Group C
About as expected…

Argentina, along with Holland) played some of the nicest soccer this weekend. They have definitely pushed themselves into one of the “teams to beat”. Ivory Coast gave a good performance, but Argentina punished them on the few chances they got and the outcome was never really in doubt.

Serbia & Montenegro vs Holland – Group C
Mexico vs Iran – Group D
Angola vs Portugal – Group D

I missed most of these games, although I will eventually watch the recordings I made, I did see a little bit of each game along with highlights.

Holland (Netherlands, Dutch, whateveryouwanttocallthem) and Portugal played really nice, attractive and attacking soccer. However, they each only won by one goal. This is a problem. To consistently score goals is the mark of a good or great team, but to just score one goal in one game you only need to be lucky. Either Serbia or Angola could have scored (and had chances to) on a freak bounce or error and then Holland or Portugal would have come away with only 1 point instead of 3 and put themselves in a really bad position for the rest of the group stage. Teams like Italy (2-0), Argentina (2-0) and even, ugh, Germany (4-2) put multiple goals on teams they should beat. Mexico dropped 3 on Iran after Iran scored to tie and gave Mexico quite the scare until 2 terrible errors by Iran gifted Mexico 2 late goals. There would have been a tidal wave across the Gulf Coast as the whole country would have jumped into the ocean had they lost or tied to Iran.